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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

SMBs and midmarket firms cautiously moving away from Hybrid Work

Poised for liftoff for some time, the remote work revolution was set to shift into overdrive. However, hybrid work is challenging the SMBs. By the end of 2023, 32% of employees within the SMB and midmarket firms expect to have hybrid work arrangements, down from 58% in 2021 and similar to 29% (pre-pandemic levels) in 2019. Over 40% of SMBs and Upper midmarket firms are experiencing significant challenges impacting remote employees’ productivity. In addition, 39% of SMBs and 41% of upper midmarket firms have critical security concerns relative to remote and hybrid work. Furthermore, 43% of businesses cannot adequately support remote employees, and 39% cannot provide consistent technology experience for remote and on-site employees. Finally, 41% of SMBs and upper midmarket firms have not overcome organizational challenges in managing remote employees. Techaisle data shows that senior management is spending 3X more time maintaining company culture through the hybrid organization, 2.5X more time in employee empathy, and 2X more time in supervision and management. 

As a result, 62% of SMBs and 68% of upper midmarket firms plan to return all employees to the office in 2023. However, bringing the employees back to the office is also of concern to the executive management. As a result, 37% of SMBs are prioritizing office space planning, and 32% are identifying wayfinding technologies. In addition, 41% of upper midmarket firms are investigating ID management, and 40% are investing in smart meeting rooms.

techaisle smb midmarket hybrid work

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Top 10 SMB and Midmarket business issues, IT priorities and challenges for 2023

They are here - Techaisle's annual SMB and Midmarket Top 10 IT Priorities, IT Challenges, and Business Issues infographics, 13th year of Techaisle tracking at a WW level, and is sought after by IT vendors, channel partners, and media. Techaisle surveyed over 5000 SMBs, quota sampled to ensure adequate coverage of four small businesses (1-9, 10-19, 20-49, and 50-99 employees), three midmarket (100-249, 250-499, and 500-999 employees) and two upper midmarket (1000-2499, 2500-4999) segments. As a result, the data represents a robust and reliable sampling of the market segment for IT products and services.

Significant changes in 2023 as compared to 2022 are:

  • Driving innovation and managing uncertainty, absent in 2022, are among the top 10 business issues in 2023.
  • Deploying customer experience solutions as an IT priority has moved to 4th place as compared to 9th in 2022. CCaaS is considered an integral component of customer experience solutions.
  • Implementing employee experience platforms and 5G-enabled devices/applications are new IT priorities within the top 10 list. UCaaS is one of the technology areas being investigated by SMBs.
  • Adopting collaboration technology solutions has move down from 3rd rank to 8th and hybrid workplace solutions as a priority ranks 10th as compared to 5th in 2022
  • Budget constraint has been a constant IT challenge fixture for over a decade. For 2023, it has been replaced by cloud cost management. Cloud optimization and cost management are the top IT challenges for SMBs, Core-Midmarket, and Upper Midmarket firms.
  • Preventing Cyberattacks, adopting Zero Trust, and moving to as-a-service technology acquisition for new IT challenges are among the top five.
  • Sustainability is increasingly becoming relevant and essential for the SMB segment, and there is no surprise that it is among the top challenges.
  • Integration, business process automation is now non-optional and a challenge, which is worsened because of the inability to find trained employees
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Zoho – A Great Bet for Mid-Market firms

In October 2022, Zoho reached US$1 billion in revenue. Zoho was founded in 1996 to deliver easy-to-use and deploy CRM solutions to the SOHO market segment (Small Office, Home Office). Even the Zoho name was a spin from SOHO. Zoho has transformed from a fledgling startup to an enterprise serving small, midsized, large, and public sector organizations globally. In recent years, Zoho has successfully moved upmarket from helping small businesses to midmarket firms and enterprise customers. Mid-market firms are measured, thoughtful, agile, and rapidly digitally transforming, focusing on cloud cost optimization and business process automation. These firms are building a longer-term strategy for an integrated, flexible approach to incremental cloud expansion. In direct contrast, small businesses move from point to point, working first on one discrete solution and then on the next. This dichotomous approach is a real challenge for suppliers as they need to differentiate solutions for the small business market and demonstrate that their offerings are essential components of broader strategies for mid-market firms while attracting attention to their products and building brand preference in both segments. While the expectations of mid-market buyers about SaaS providers are similar to large enterprises, the budgetary limitations create challenges in supplier selection, deployment, and management.

Techaisle research shows that midmarket firms invest in their employees and are social responsibility advocates. As a result, they want their vendors to share these characteristics and mindsets. Therefore, serving the mid-market segment necessitates a distinct culture that is not characterized by high prices and lengthy sale cycles.

Midmarket technology DNA and role of Zoho

The positioning of the solutions within the midmarket is essential. It requires in-depth information on business benefits and the process steps needed to capture those benefits targeted at BDMs, and information on how to assemble, deploy, integrate, and support/optimize these solutions targeted at ITDMs – and an understanding of how to position and convey the messages to each audience.

Its extensive portfolio of cloud business applications includes 50+ products, ranging from traditional office suites to analytics, finance, sales and marketing, collaboration, customer service, HR, and many more business processes at competitive pricing. Zoho has a deep engineering culture immersed in R&D, along with maintaining its cultural ethos without having to cope with any interference from either external investors or the public market. Zoho believes that instead of spending heavily on sales and marketing, it would instead invest in software development efforts or let its potential customers access the limited-feature platform for free. This strategy has proved to be very successful for Zoho and its customers.

Simplicity, flexibility, and value for midmarket firms

Zoho One, the flagship product, is designed for mid-market businesses. With Zoho One, customers have access to 45 business, collaboration, and productivity applications, of which over 20 applications (across functions) are used by more than half of Zoho’s customers. The solutions are a part of a unified technology platform with built-in search, messaging, and AI services. It runs on a unified database with a unified data model with data pillars that enable seamless integration to deliver single truth for the business empowering users with a unified experience. The collection of apps running on a single database architecture and purpose-built on Zoho technology stack - services, software, hardware, and network infrastructure - deployed on Zoho’s own global data centers ensures performance, availability, security, and privacy. All these solutions and features come at an affordable price, which makes the package suitable for mid-market firms as it significantly reduces the total cost of ownership, deployment, and integration timeframes.

Raju Vegesna, Chief Evangelist, Zoho, once said, “the market is littered with features masquerading as products.” Zoho One provides single sign-on, single subscription, and a fully integrated platform. It is common knowledge that app-specific experiences drive infrastructure-level optimization steeped in Zero Trust, AI, distributed file structure, and data center expansion driven by market dynamics.

More than 60% of Zoho’s workforce is devoted to engineering, developing new technologies, and keeping these technologies updated. Since the launch of Zoho One in 2017, Zoho has been innovating and updating its applications. With the evolution and maturing of newer technologies, Zoho has been adding AI/ML functionalities and improving user experiences.

In the past five years, Zoho One has grown considerably and has acquired over 50,000 businesses as customers in 160+ countries. Over the past two years, the platform has grown 150%, with 37.5% of new customers from mid-market and enterprise segments. License upgrades have increased by 92%. These figures spotlight the strategic commitment by Zoho to deliver end-to-end solutions that empower organizations to be agile, scalable, and adaptive to changes in their industries. Even the midmarket developers are taking notice as they can access Zoho Tables, RPA, and Test automation tools. Zoho Finance suite has seen tremendous growth. As per Zoho, it is processing 100M invoices per year.

Zoho One is wholly developed in-house on a single technology stack and is a unified, end-to-end platform that offers plenty of integration points across applications. Well-grounded unification enables organizations to link functions such as sales, marketing, customer support, accounting, human resources, and others. Moreover, the platform can be easily integrated with third-party solutions, allowing organizations (especially mid-market enterprises) the flexibility to manage complex systems, large amounts of data, and dispersed teams.

Techaisle’s latest midmarket research shows that 42% of firms are increasing their spending through cloud marketplaces. Over 500K Zoho users use 1500+ apps from the Zoho marketplace (e.g., Twilio for Zoho CRM). Recognizing the need for verticalization, Zoho has purpose-built industry apps such as real estate CRM, travel agencies, IT services, field services, and many others. Most importantly, Zoho enables midmarket firms to develop and deploy custom apps.

zoho unified dashboards widgets

Zoho addresses the need for high-velocity custom apps

It is relatively easy to adopt a single SaaS solution, connecting its inputs and outputs to relevant internal systems and processes. It is possible to adopt a handful of cloud applications, hand-wiring the interconnections between them and adjacent applications. But this craft-built approach to the cloud differs from longer-term visions of scale, flexibility, and agility. It creates IT management overhead and performance and security risks. Even worse, disconnected systems affect relationships between companies and their customers: workflows that lack cohesion create unnecessary gaps in service. Unable to link all inputs to achieve a single view of the business reduces visibility into individual customer preferences and broader market opportunities. Zoho One provides midmarket firms with tools they can use to develop their applications and automate their business processes by creating workflows. For example:

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Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is a phenomenal multitasking notebook for the discerning SMB user

Occasionally there comes along a compelling, impressive, persuasive, and differentiated notebook design that astonishes you. Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is that design. The new Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 has a 17.3-inch ultrawide 3K display AND an additional 8-inch color display beside the keyboard. It is built for multitasking. And I love it.

I first fiddled with Thinkbook Plus in November 2019. The notebook gripped my attention because of its “Think” pedigree, focus on the SMB segment, and unexpected E-Ink screen on the lid. It was an intriguing design. Fast forward two years to September 2022. The innovation difference between the Gen 1 and Gen 3 has been nothing but exponential. I distinctly remember quizzing engineers during analyst council sessions with many PC OEMs about a notebook with multiple or extensible screens. Two models with dual screens have been introduced, and Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is far better than its competitor.

techaisle lenovo thinkbook plus gen3 image

I have been using a fully configured (1 TB SSD, 12th Gen Intel core i7-12700H processor, 32 GB memory, a fingerprint scanner on the power button, TPM 2.0) production model for most of the last month. It is an innovative and practical notebook that exudes the quiet confidence of imaginative applied design. When I powered on the notebook, my synapses fired on all cylinders. Lenovo still has one of the cleanest setups and installs of any PC OEM. Lenovo Vantage is one of the best apps to personalize device settings, update drivers and software and manage security configurations.

Dual displays are more productive than one

The touchscreen 17.3-inch main display of the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is ultrawide and has a resolution of 3072 x 1440 with an aspect ratio of 21:10 and 400 nits brightness. The ultrawide display in a laptop makes multitasking more accessible and allows users to see more content with less distraction. The massive and roomy display is a visual treat, a productivity enhancer, and ideal for Windows 11 snap layout. Straddling the line between business, work, and life, ThinkBook boasts Dolby Vision for lifelike images, blue light reduction, and 2 X 2W Harman Kardon audio for superior sound. The Lenovo Integrated Pen is a bonus for the secondary display. There is a built-in pen garage in the right corner of the chassis rear. I found the pen responsive on the 8-inch display when using Microsoft OneNote. I have extensively used the secondary 800 x 1280 multitouch LCD display for email, note taking, meeting calendar, WhatsApp desktop, skype, web browsing, file explorer, and Teams chat. Its 10:16 aspect ratio works very well, in my experience. It is one of the best examples of multitasking. Although the screen resolution is not the best, it is very productive to have an additional display. The high point is that I can drag and drop most applications and snap windows from the main to the secondary display and vice versa. I have effectively used the screen to glance at my talking points during presentations. The two screens combined optimize my productivity. The backlit keyboard is helpful.

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